the more you ignore me
directors: keith english (debut)
starring: sheridan smith, jo brand, mark addy and ella hunt
REVIEWER: purdie picot
In the 1980s, a young mother's efforts to be a good wife are undermined by her declining mental health.
The More You Ignore Me is centred around a family in 1980s rural England, and their experiences of the mental decline of Gina, with and mother. It’s far more wholesome, and even a little bit more funny than how it sounds. Writer and comic, Jo Brand, has her wicked sense of humour peppered throughout this moving film.
Sometimes you need a low-budget indie to recenter yourself, reflect on the importance of family and sanity. The More You Ignore Me scratches just that very itch, it zeroes in on a sweet, rural family of three who are all just trying their best despite the difficult circumstances. Sheridan Smith as Gina, is wonderfully played out. You have the sense of kindness and respect brought to a heavy role such as this. The decline of Gina’s mental health is portrayed in such a way that there are moments of pity, frustration and laughter, the brutally honest ups and downs of the experience.
Before Jo Brand became an entertainer she was a psychiatric nurse, this first hand experience is very evident in the treatment of Gina and the depiction of the mental health system. Throughout the film it was frustrating to see the limitations of the times, and the struggle that the family and the system (of hospitals and doctors) went through in order to properly care for Gina. Perhaps her struggle wouldn’t have happened in today’s world, but it was a struggle for many women to secure proper treatment.
While this is an intimate film, witnessing the development of the family as daughter, Alice, grows from a young girl, to a teenager, it never feels unnecessarily voyeuristic. As an audience, we are invited in to their personal space, to take part in their familial developments, but we aren’t there to amuse ourselves with their predicaments. We laugh with them, we cry with them, we feel Alice’s frustrations time and time again as she struggles to find her own space in the world. The delicate subject of mental health is a tough one to navigate, and placing that parallel to a coming of age story, there are plenty of real genuine human moments. While we personally have not experienced all the struggles of the film, we cannot help but empathise with the characters as we live their lives with them.
A key cornerstone of The More You Ignore Me would be the backdrop of The Smiths. Alice, like any obsessive teenage girl, has a strong passion for the lead singer Morrissey. Her transformation from sweet girl to independent teenager is great. I am a sucker for a historical coming of age film, and the gentle 1980s rural English vibes were a refreshing backdrop. Finding solace in the brooding music of The Smiths, a moment to escape for Alice, a simple passion but her own personal escape - something that most people could relate to.
Each of these characters had their own lives, their own own merits and flaws. While some foibles were greater than others, they were all genuine and lovable in their own ways. Each of the supporting characters who were there along the ride were equally important and entertaining. From sweet boyfriend, to Jo’s own friendly and honest shopkeeper, we were truly transported to small town England.
The More You Ignore Me is a satisfying tale, a story which doesn’t necessarily challenge, or shock, but one that deserves to be seen. A journey of family, and love - unconditional and seemingly unrequited. To take a step away from this crazy year and journey to someone else’s cup of crazy is a very welcomed break.
A well told tale with heart-warming characters, The More You Ignore Me is a delightful film.